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Autism Advocacy & Raising Awareness of Neurodivergence

Empowerment are an excellent charity in which I am delighted to work for; my name is Ethan and I was recently hired to become an apprentice administrator for Blackpool Advocacy Hub.

I deeply care about raising awareness and uplifting those who are silenced and discriminated against. I suppose this stems from my own personal experiences of being discriminated and such know how some of the people we work with may feel.

I am especially passionate about bringing awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and Issues disabled people face. I was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) last year, it was life changing to finally be able to understand myself, what was ‘wrong’ or ‘different’ about me, and to get the support that I need. This is one of the feelings that a newly diagnosed autistic person may experience.

Neurodiversity is the term used to describe the range of neurological disabilities such as Dyspraxia, Autism and ADHD. In other words, a condition such as autism is a part of who the person is and to take away the autism is to take away the person. Neurodivergent activists advocate instead for celebrating autistic forms of communication and self-expression, and for promoting support systems that will allow people with autism to live their life as their true self. A good way that I have seen autistic expression be described was off an Instagram post of an autistic account that posts facts and raises awareness and acceptance, the post stated “Me being autistic is a part of me as it is woven into my nervous system and intertwines throughout all of my body”. Many people feel like they know what it is like to be neurodivergent but they really do not unless they are themselves. They usually say something like “my cousin is autistic so don’t tell me that I don’t understand”, which in itself isn’t a terrible thing but it is dismissive and not allowing the neurodivergent individual’s voice be heard as no one knows more what it’s like to be neurodivergent than neurodivergent people themselves.

I think when you find out someone is neurodivergent (e.g Autism/ADHD) people have a preconception of the persons disability. In the case of Autism if I told someone I was autistic they might think that I am only ‘a little autistic’ which is very ableist and invalidates what I need support with. The Autism spectrum does not work like this, as it is not linear but looks more like this: (Information Is From My Own Experiences and off the national autism society website, which is very useful). To read more please click here

This is the incorrect way to look at Autism (so is using ‘high functioning and ‘low functioning labels’) and I feel that we as a society should throw that preconception out of the window, as it also dismantles what ‘low functioning’ people are capable of. Using functioning labels is bad for the same reasons as stated above.

This blog is not a rant to complain about things but rather to make more people aware of things they might not have known about autism before or that some of the words used to describe us are harmful. Autistic people are more likely to have also an accompanying disability such as ADHD, which is a condition that is more common in autistics and vice versa. Autistic people are also more common to have mental health disorders such as anxiety, social anxiety or depression.

Examples of Ways to assist us (especially in the workplace and applicable for anywhere) are:

⚫ If we go non-verbal and usually have no difficulties speaking, please do not ask us to speak or get annoyed at us as we are experiencing a ‘shutdown’ we temporarily go non-verbal due to having a sensory overload

⚫ don’t tell us to stop ‘stimming’ (e.g tapping a desk to a theme I like or tapping my foot) as this is a self-regulatory thing we do when we are anxious, happy or our surroundings have become too much (hyper) or to little (hypo) for us

⚫I personally do not support charities that use the jigsaw puzzle piece as their logo, as ‘Autism Speaks’ which is a very harmful charity for people on the spectrum created this. They fund ‘research’ to try and cure autism and have created prenatal tests to see if someone is at ‘risk’ of being autistic which then is spreading their message that autism is something to be feared by

Their 2020 annual report and 100 day toolkit is seen as particularly disappointing to myself for the reasons stated above.

If you would like to know more about how to help someone who has Autism – just ask! We welcome questions and ways to support as everyone is unique and has different ways to function.

Also if you need help with advocating on your behalf please contact the Blackpool Advocacy Hub here or the Motivate 2 Project here

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